Saturday, November 26, 2011

on musicals

Above is "Life's a Happy Song" from the Muppet movie with music & lyrics by Bret McKenzie (the beardo half of Flight of the Conchords aka NOT the sideburns dude from Flight of the Conchords) and it sounds like it. Bravo.

The problem I have with musicals is that not everything is sung. If everyone always sang then there would be a single point of suspension of belief : these people are crazy good at rhyming, improvisation and performing. Since everyone doesn't always sing then that implies it is still a difficult task requiring forethought and training.

Everything goes along like a normal day only occasionally, out of the blue someone will burst into song and then random people in the background will do a little back up singing and, of course, a bit of dancing. (not really out of the blue, it is usually at a significant event or preceding a significant event. Rarely, if ever, is there singing about eating breakfast or putting on socks)

Does this happen every day? Is that how everyone knows the words and have seemingly well practiced their synchronized dance moves? Are the back up singers/dancers paid or is there some social obligation that if someone starts singing then everyone else is expected to join in?

Are the songs made up impromptu or do they hire writers? Choreographers? Rehearse? Do they keep singing basically the same song everyday and eventually it gets better?

Sometimes, does one of the lonely background people decide to start singing and then does everyone else join in or is that reserved for certain people? Could someone jump up onto a table and start singing and dancing and then that would make everyone else believe they are part of the "star" social class?

What happens to those who can't sing or dance; are they shunned? Or when the dancing starts are they required to leave the room and hide or pretend to be a tree until the number is over?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Superman vs Spider-man

Joe Hildebrand on Superman vs Spider-man :
I count Superman and Superman II as the same movie. Spiderman just isn’t the same. I just can’t have an arachnid as a role model.

My response :
I can't let this stand without a response.
1) Spider-man is not an arachnid. You might try to claim that 2/3 of his name is "Spider" but that is just the letters. If you measure the number of words that make up the name spider-man you'll find that only half are "spider" but a full 50% are "man"
2) Superman is an alien! An arachnid is at least an earthly species. If Superman looked this alien would he be your idol?
3) Superman wears a cape. Some people might say the cape is faaaaaaabulous! but I say it shows Superman's narcissistic tendencies overwhelming his sense of practicality. He also wears a yellow belt that isn't a utility belt. Spider-man wears a skintight costume because he does gymnast like activities while avoiding villians. Superman is invulnerable and wears a skin tight costume because he's vain.
3a) Superman would need inexpensive Viagra and prescription-free oxycodone and a psychic to deal with the beautiful vacation lesbians that would help him quit smoking and get free money from the government for his laboratory glassware. (more keywords to get Joe more search hits)
4) Superman rhymes with pooperman
5) Spider-man can be called Spidey. Do you call your role model Superman Soupy?
6) You could plausibly get bitten by a radioactive spider, but your parents building an interstellar rocket, wrapping you up in swaddling and sending you and it to an inhabited and human inhabitable planet where you would have super powers? Not as likely.
7) While I don't intend this to cast aspirations on your character; a perv with X-ray vision could give an unknown number of people serious illness.
8) Do you want someone who can't realistically have sex as a role model? (See Man of Steel Woman of Kleenex by Larry Niven)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Future Oscar Winner

Joe Hildebrand on how to win an oscar :
"Of course if you’re a member of the Academy and spend your life at sushi dinners talking about how challenging French cinema is you can’t actually take into account whether a film is good or not. You just have to make sure it either contains a Nazi, a homo or a retard."

My response :
You are right that what would be golden would be the story of a gay retarded nazi. Here's an excerpt from the rough draft of my soon to be Oscar winning script :

Hans : B-but why George? Why do you want to take away George the bunny? George the bunny is my very, very best friend next to you, George
George : Nein! Nein! Das ist jewish bunny!! Das ist verboooooten!
Hans : But George...

(in walks Gretchen, George's stern female superior officer dressed in her heeled leather boots, black stockings, black garters and a shiny black leather uniform. She slowly walks about the room while reckless swinging her riding crop. She is to be played by someone other than Claire Danes who would probably intermittently use a british accent)

Gretchen : Hey guys, whatcha doin'?
George : Vat are you doing here?
Gretchen : I was just stopping by to see if you've been a naughty boy... and maybe inspect some privates. (she suggestively runs her hand up George (not the bunny)'s chest and to his fashionably starched shirt collar) You know, it's my job to know if anyone here needs a spanking? (she is staring intently at George's lips and lightly touches them with her fingertip as George cringes) Anyone?
Hans : (raises his hand)
George : Errr... Vat is it you are zinking, Frau Gretchen?
Gretchen : Zinking? You bitch! I've been dieting all week and you think I look like a boat!

(Gretchen smacks George on the butt with her riding crop. George instinctively fights back - he holds his elbows next to his body and slaps his hands ineffectively. He looks like a very gay dog doing a very gay dogpaddle. She realizes he is still gay and storms out.)

Hans : (still staring at the door she exited) Gee George, that Gretchen must be the prettiest guy in the whole German army
George : (changes the subject by pointing menacingly at George the bunny) Das ist jewish hasenpfeffer!! (hasenpfeffer is german for rabbit stew)
Hans : No, George, no! Look George, look, George the bunny likes eating frankfurters! A jewish bunny wouldn't eat a sausage with pork in it, would he George!
George : (sighs) Ja. Ja, vell ve all like der viener...

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Roman statue of Pompey Magnus
click to embiggen

Some Romans wars :
the Germanic War was against Germans
the Mithridatic War was against Mithridates
the Punic War must have been against the Punies

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Herma of Demosthenes
Herma of Demosthenes, c. 280 BC
click to embiggen

wiki describes a herma as "a sculpture with a head, and perhaps a torso, above a plain, usually squared lower section, on which male genitals may also be carved at the appropriate height... and were placed at crossings, country borders and boundaries as protection (against evil)"

 (note to self: evil is afraid of penises)

The article doesn't really answer why a herma consists of a rectangular block with such a limited set of sculptural elements.

Possible reasons :
  • Importance. Sculptors sought to simplify man to only the most important elements.
  • A solid rectangular block would be more resilient than a full figure but then the point of adding fragile genitals (see the broken bits in the photo above) brings that theory into question.
  • Identification. If someone doesn't recognize the face maybe they'd recognize another part.
  • Vandals. Who has never seen a dumpster or wall that a vandal has drawn a penis on to it? I imagine industrious sculpting vandals with chisel in hand sneaking out to the herma in the dark of night and chipping away until they've added a phallus.
  • the rectangular block below the head could serve a sign space – like a modern sandwich board.
  • many phalluses have, over the years, been broken. Perhaps they pointed a direction
  • for those hermas erected erect, they could serve as a way to protect Greek towns from roving bands of nymphomaniacs (this assumes there were actually roving bands of nymphos who could be distracted by the herma just outside of town)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How Orwellian : The Pie of Slavery

from the Colossus story in Marvel Comics Presents #10 (Jan 1989).

scan of Marvel Comics Presents #10 p25
click to embiggen

Colossus says "You in this country have free press. You can say whatever you please!"

Sounds good so far!

Colossus : "Your constitution gives you that treasured freedom. So must you slap your government in the face with pornography? Why abuse your freedom?"

As a kid I laughed when I read that. It seemed silly to suggest that free speech should be limited (besides by the illegal) by anything that is an affront to the government (and however that might be defined). I find that view of free speech more distressing now that I'm older.

At least lèse majesté is narrowly limited to offense aimed at a monarch. It is interesting that it shouldn't be respect and politeness to one's neighbors and fellow citizens that might provoke a want for discretion but an insult to a faceless institution.

and a few pages later...
scan of Marvel Comics Presents #10 p30
click to embiggen

and Colossus thinks to himself "But... are the two countries that different?"

Colossus is a university sophomore?

Colossus : "Russia's media is suppressive, but America's is exploitative!"

So, censorship and a not enough censorship are practically the same thing? I imagine the writer, Ann Nocenti, still cackles with laughter at the thought that she is still exploiting me after all these years.

Colossus : "Americans on a picnic, eating American pie. They look so happy."
Colossus : "Are they? Are they really free?"

Perhaps not. I blame it on their grabbing the wrong pie and bringing a telepathic mutant pie of slavery to the picnic by mistake. It seems like a better explanation than blaming distant, two dimensional boobies and a lack of crushing censorship.

Altogether, the story isn't without a certain charm and I think the artwork by Rick Leonardi & P. Craig Russell is exceptional. There is a lovely economy of line.

The meat of the story is based on the abuse of government power, hardly who I would want to entrust censorship based on the degree of affrontedness the government might "feel."

Monday, June 27, 2011

An early vision of ancient man

And it looks like that ancient man is Homo Erectus.
Study of an Antique Relief by Johan Tobias Sergel c.1769
click to embiggen

Study of an Antique Relief by Johan Tobias Sergel c.1769

Although it is identified as being part of the Pergamon Altar (circa 200 B.C.) I haven't seen this section in photos from the Pergamon Museum.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Soviet Propaganda

A Soviet Union propaganda poster from 1954 : Say NO to vodka!

That's not just an unamerican attitude but an unrussian attitude too.

It didn't seem to work very well. And it is no surprise. Note the complete lack of explanation – only a command : Nyet!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

cartoonily accurate

still from the MGM Tex Avery cartoon One Cab's Family
still from the MGM Tex Avery cartoon One Cab's Family

it isn't cartoony exaggeration. It is an observation.

Photograph by Jacques Henri Lartigue of a car in motion. The camera shutter moved from bottom to top so as the shutter moved the car moved forward and a different part of the car was exposed.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Nazi Corn Palace?

The Corn Palace of Mitchell, South Dakota in 1905 with a non-Nazi swastika on the front
click to embiggen

The Corn Palace of Mitchell, South Dakota in 1905 with a swastika on the front. A Nazi Corn Palace? It does have a swastika on the front but the photo is from 1905. So it is a non-nazi swastika.

The Corn Palace is a building decorated with ears of corn all over the exterior. "WTF" you say? I was there once as a kid and that was my thoughts exactly.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Bodhidharma aka Daruma a Buddhist mystic.
click to embiggen

A Japanese figure of Bodhidharma (aka Daruma), a Buddhist mystic, apparently called the The Blue-Eyed Barbarian. He meditated for 9 years and it was said that afterwards the only thing left of him was his head which his disciples would carry around.

If I remember correctly this little sculpture was a netsuke.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Four Spaniards

First : Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas (1656). The original.
Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas
click to embiggen

Second : Francisco Goya's etching Las Meninas (c. 1778) after Velazquez. Note it is the only one here that kept the original's proportions.
Goya's etching after Las Meninas by Velazquez
click to embiggen

Third : Salvador Dali's Infanta Margarita from Velazquez's Las Meninas (1981, titled "The Pearl".
Salvador Dali's The Pearl after Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas
click to embiggen

Fourth : Pablo Picasso's Las Meninas (1957, Picasso did dozens of paintings after Velazquez's Las Meninas)
after Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas
click to embiggen

after Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas
click to embiggen

Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas
click to embiggen


Shaft : a word that could be used as a sexual euphemism for either men or women.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stylistic plagarist : Claude Monet

A previous stylistic plagarist has been noted.

Cattle Going to Work - Impression of Morning by Constant Troyon (1855)
click to embiggen

Cattle Going to Work - Impression of Morning by Constant Troyon (1855)

Claude Monet - Haystack Morning Snow Effect (1891)
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Haystack Morning Snow Effect by Claude Monet (1891)

Around 1859, at 19, Claude Monet, with a letter of introduction from the painter Eugène Boudin, met Troyon and supposedly asked to be his student but the self-taught Troyon declined.

Of course, calling it plagiarism is a stretch. One difference is the size. Troyon's painting is huge. 102.25 x157.5 inches. Monet also did large paintings but I think his larger paintings are the water lilies and his more conventional landscapes are of a more conventional size. I could be wrong. The other difference is that Troyon was never as impressionistic as Monet but my first reaction to Cattle Going to Work reproduced in a book was "Ah, a Monet?"

Saturday, February 5, 2011

stylistic plagiarism

Sumerian head from c.2500 B.C. vs Random anime head from about 4500 years later
Sumerian head vs random anime character : Ritsu Tainaka
click to embiggen

I'm working on a theme.